Published on Development Impact

Towards Transparency in journal turnaround times

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The impetus for this post comes from a couple of recent experiences. First, I got copied on the letter sent to an author containing a decision from the editor from a paper that I had refereed so long ago that I had forgotten even refereeing it. Second, every now and then I have conversations with colleagues about where to send papers, which for most journals rely on anecdotes/sample sizes of a couple of experiences (e.g. what is journal X like for turnaround time – well, the one paper I sent there recently took 10 months to get a report, etc.).

As far as I know, there is no centralized table where you can go and look and see how different journals fare in terms of turnaround time. A few journals (AER, the AEJs, J. Financial Economics) have very nice editors’ reports prominent on their websites which allows you to see turnaround statistics. Our journal Q&As with QJE and WBER have also contained some information on this. But most journals don’t seem to have this information, and even those journals that do contain it don’t have it all in a completely comparable form. I’d like to see a table like this for all journals with all columns filled:


The AEJ-Applied is the only one of the above with data also on second submission turnaround times – which is what I also think separates out the journals a lot – some editors are more prepared to not send papers back to referees on relatively minor revisions, speeding up the process a lot. The AER has a table like this, which I think more journals should publish:


Let us know what other statistics you want, and then maybe we can push for more transparency from journals on some of these key statistics, with the aim of publishing some tables like those above on this blog once a year comparing journals. In the meantime, to help authors in seeing how long journals are giving referees to turn in their reports at different journals, here is a figure based on the deadlines given by journals I have refereed for over the last 6 months or so:


Readers, please add in the comments any info on the time you are given at other economics journals you have refereed for recently – it would be good to expand this through crowd-sourcing. Of course a big issue is whether journals actually pro-actively act to chase up with authors and incentivize these deadlines, but there is a big difference in processing time likely to arise from giving people 28 days vs 84 days to turn in their reports in the first place!


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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